PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

PSFK Picks: Top 10 Health Innovations Of The Week

From a next-generation prosthetic hand to an exercise plan tailored to sugary drinks, we bring you the most innovative stories from the world of wellness research.

Scott Lachut, PSFK Labs
  • 2 december 2012

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a snapshot of Ten Innovative Ideas each week that are reshaping the health care industry. Continue reading below for the most exciting ideas from the past seven days.

Luke Skywalker’s Robotic Hand Jumps From The Silver Screen Into Reality
The Bebionic3 is a myoelectric prosthetic hand that uses the residual neuro-muscular signals from a person’s muscles to operate a number of precise functions, ushering in a new era of synthetic limbs. Featuring a range of 14 hand positions and grips, the next-generation prosthetic hand gives users the ability to write with a pen, delicately hold glasses and bottles, and even crack eggs. The futuristic-looking Bebionic3 is also offered with a skin-tone glove to hide the mechanical functions and approximate the appearance of a real hand.

Skin-Like Polymer Could Lead To Touch-Sensitive, Self-Healing Prosthetics
A team of scientists at Stanford have developed a material that can not only heal itself at room temperature, but also respond to touch, making it an ideal foundation for fashioning future prosthetics. The synthetic was created by combining nickel particles with a plastic polymer, which resulted in a malleable substance with excellent conductivity. The material is capable of fully repairing itself in approximately 30 minutes, while maintaining excellent resiliency. Testing revealed that even after cutting the substance 50 times in the same place, the sample retained its original strength. The conductive nature of the material means that it could be used in more advanced prosthetics, allowing users to detect the pressure of handshakes or flexing of the joints. The team is currently designing the material for use in consumer electronics.

Music Composition Software Adapted To Test For Alzheimer’s
Neuroscientist Adam Boulanger is developing a novel technique for helping diagnose early onset of Alzheimer’s disease by examining people’s brain-activity as they composed their own song, and then again as they played a memory game. In his trials, patients between the ages of 50-70 were asked to create a song using a visual program called Hyperscore. Afterwards, Boulanger’s desktop app CogNotes transformed the final compositions into a memory game. The ten-level quiz tests associative memory, which Alzheimer’s cripples early on. His study showed that people with Alzheimer’s never get beyond level three, whereas healthy patients perform, on average, two levels better. Boulanger is further developing the concept into a startup called ‘Hear for Yourself,’ which scales up the CogNotes program for use in video games, with goal of empowering people to manage and assess their own health.

Coca-Cola’s ‘Work It Out’ Calculator Helps User Burn Off Sugary Drinks
In an effort to help their customers establish a balance between sugary indulgences and healthy lifestyles, Coca-Cola in the UK has developed the Work It Out Calculator, a tool that suggests activities that will cancel out the calories in each of its drinks. Users can select the product whose calories they want to neutralize and the calculator will give the number of calories in each serving along with a number of suitable workouts. For example, a 139 calorie can of Coke could be counteracted with a 17-minute basketball session or 45 minutes of ballroom dancing. The tool also suggests activities that can be carried out in the home, such as ironing, vacuuming and stair climbing. Once they have worked out a plan to burn off the calories, users can gain additional nutrition advice, learn more about recommended daily allowances and read about the importance of exercise.

Touch-Screen Computer Helps Detect Malnutrition In Older Adults
Researchers across a number of UK universities have developed a touchscreen computer system to help tackle the growing yet relatively unknown problem of malnutrition in older adults. The system, called NANA for Novel Assessment of Nutrition and Ageing combines specially-developed touchscreen software with the remote monitoring made possible by a simple webcam to measure diet, cognition, mood, and physical function. Users select food items from a visual interface on the computer, tracking everything they eat, including snacks. They then take before and after pictures of their meals using a webcam. The information is then sent off to a nutritionist who can ascertain a person’s dietary intake. The study was conducted using off the shelf Eee Top computers to which researchers attached a webcam and a digital grip strength device for assessing physical frailty, creating a holistic system for remote measurement.

Modular Insoles Allow DIY Foot Care Solutions
OrthoticMe is a modular system of interchangeable supports designed to help people with foot problems create their own personal shoe inserts rather than investing in expensive custom soles. Several different sized parts can be attached to the main sole using Velcro. Each piece comes in layers, allowing users to determine how much correction they need. According to the company, patients can self-medicate by gradually adding layers to get the foot accustomed to support, and then stopping when the force of the support feels too strong. The parts are available as a kit or as individual pieces and include met, transverse, scaphoid and peroneal pads.

Crowdfunding Medical Care For The Needy
Samahope is a new website that combines ideas from Kickstarter and Kiva to help crowdfund medical treatment for the very poor. The site connects with local clinics and hospitals in poor communities with a track record of excellent care, vetting them through a combination of information gathering and on-site visits. Approved partners post profiles of real patients who have recently received or are awaiting a surgery. Visitors to Samahope choose patients they’d like to fund with 100% of users’ donations going to the surgical partner for conducting the procedure. Partners post updates on a regular basis to allow donors to track the progress of the surgeries they have funded. To date, the community has already funded a number of successful procedures.

Advancing The Future of Healthcare: frog’s Connected Care Solution
Design innovation firm frog has developed a prototype Connected Care Solution (CCS) based on a new patient-centered healthcare paradigm that connects doctors and patients and supportive communities around shared access to mobile platforms and intelligently displayed information. The end-to-end solution creates a networked ecosystem of people, applications and sensors to seamlessly exchange data and communications in real-time, helping patients receive the support they need based on their specific goals and conditions. The platform is designed to transform the current model of healthcare, which is based on treating problems rather than actively managing conditions and behaviors by empowering patients with better tools.

Citizen Scientists Map 1,400 Defibrillators In Philly Contest
In an effort to locate as many of Philadelphia’s estimated 5,000 automated external defibrillators (AEDs), researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine engaged citizen scientists in an eight-week crowdsourcing contest called MyHeartMap Challenge. As a result of the initiative, more than 300 participants help find and map 1,429 AEDs in more than 525 buildings across the city. The researchers hope this project can kickstart a national effort to catalog as many as possible with a goal of developing an interactive app of the registry so that laypeople can act quickly in the event someone nearby suffers an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Because AEDs are not subject to FDA regulations that require tracking the devices, most of the roughly one million of them across the US go unnoticed and, thus, unused.

Designer Reimagines A Cup For People With Motor Difficulties
British designer Chris Peacock has created an ergonomic cup called the handSteady to help people with health conditions such as tremor, joint pain and Parkinson’s disease overcome the challenge of balance, tilt and motion when drinking from traditional glasses. The design, which looks like a standard china cup, uses a rotating handle to help keep the cup in an upright position until the user is ready to drink. They can use the cup at any angle without having to twist their wrist to bring it to the mouth. The moveable handle makes it easy for users to tilt the cup without having to lift the elbow up or lean their head back. Alternatively, the user can lock it with a thumb to push it and keep their wrist and arm stationary. They can also grasp the cup with the other hand and simply tilt it.

PSFK has partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim to bring you a steady stream of inspiring news and ideas in the health and wellness space. Once each week, we will be posting an article on If you would like to gain access to the full stream of content, please check out Boehringer Ingelheim’s Facebook page, where they are publishing a regular stream of inspiring and informative content.


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